6 Best Hikes Near Seattle, Washington

These are my favorite hikes near Seattle from waterfalls to forests and mountain summits – all within 2 hours of the city!

Discover the best hikes near Seattle from waterfalls to forests and mountain summits with this hiking guide - all within 2 hours of the city!

I grew up in the Pacific Northwest and some of my favorite memories are from exploring the trails around Seattle. Despite being a large city, Seattle is a hiker’s heaven. Within a short drive, I could hike a mossy trail to a waterfall or trek to the top of a mountain for great views of the Cascade range.

Plus, Seattle is only a few hours away from three different National Parks: Mount Rainier, North Cascades, and Olympic. With the Puget Sound on one side and mountains flanking the eastern skyline, there is a hike for everyone around this lush PNW paradise. 

Whether you live in the area or are just visiting, the hikes I’ve chosen for this guide are all within two hours of downtown Seattle (not accounting for traffic!). 

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Map of the Best Hikes Near Seattle

This is a map that shows the location of my favorite trails near Seattle so you can see which ones are closest depending on where you are.

Map showing six of the best hikes in Seattle

1. Lake Serene & Bridal Veil Falls

Trail Basics

  • Distance: 7.5 miles
  • Type: Out-and-back
  • Elevation Gain: 2,690 feet
  • Time: 5-7 hours
  • Difficulty: Challenging
  • Trailhead: Lake Serene

Trail Description

This is one of my favorite hikes near Seattle because you’re rewarded with three great sights along the trail:

  • The stunning alpine Lake Serene
  • The cascading Bridal Veil Falls (a short off-shoot from the main trail)
  • Beautiful views out over the Skykomish Valley

I’ve hiked this trail several times and every time I do it I’m always reminded of how gorgeous this area is. But be prepared to work for the great views – this is a challenging hike!

The trail begins on a road-grade gravel path that winds up through western red cedars and Douglas firs. About a mile and a half in, you reach the turnoff to Bridalveil Falls. It’s only a half-mile up to the falls, but I recommend doing this on the way up to the lake because you won’t want to head back uphill on the way back! The water from Bridal Veil Falls tumbles down the slick granite cliff and if you squint, you can imagine the water flowing into a veil-like shape, which is how it got its name.

After checking out the falls, return to the main trail. At this point, the trail turns into a jumble of roots and boulders. I always remind myself to watch my step as I head up the switchbacks to the lake. Stairs are interspaced between sections of the trail, which are a nice (albeit brief) relief from the uneven ground. 

The trail ends at the beautiful alpine Lake Serene, which is set beneath the towering face of Mount Index. It’s a great place for a picnic lunch. I also like to take a dip in the cool, clear water after the sweaty hike up!

Note: The Forest Service requires an NW Forest Pass for parking at the Lake Serene Trailhead. 

Lake Serene and Bridalveil Falls / Discover the best hikes near Seattle from waterfalls and mountain summits with our Seattle hiking guide - all within 2 hours of the city!
Views out over the Skykomish Valley from the Serene Lake Trail | Photo: Ilana Newman

2. Mount Pilchuck

Trail Basics

  • Distance: 5.2 miles
  • Type: Out-and-back
  • Elevation Gain: 2,122 feet
  • Time: 3-5 hours
  • Difficulty: Challenging
  • Trailhead: Mount Pilchuck

Trail Description

The first time I hiked the trail to Mount Pilchuck was in the middle of winter and there were multiple feet of snow on the ground. The trees bowed over with snow made the hike feel straight out of a Dr. Suess world! Although striking, I wouldn’t necessarily recommend this as a winter hike unless you are experienced with snowy conditions. The trail passes through avalanche terrain and winter hiking requires other considerations and more careful planning.

But during the summer, Mount Pilchuck is one of the best trails for remarkable mountain views in the Seattle area. The trail ends at a fire lookout with 360-degree views, including Mount Baker and Mount Rainier. Built in 1921, the fire lookout is one of approximately 90 still standing in Washington today. I have friends who have made this hike an overnight and camped at the fire lookout.

The Mount Pilchuck trail is steep and rocky, so it might not be great for someone with limited mobility.

Note: The Forest Service requires an NW Forest Pass for parking at the Mount Pilchuck Trailhead. 

Mountain views from the top of Mount Pilchuck in Washington
The views from the top of Mount Pilchuck are spectacular!

3. Little Si

Trail Basics

  • Distance: 3.6 miles
  • Type: Out-and-back
  • Elevation Gain: 1,145 feet
  • Time: 2-4hours
  • Difficulty: Moderate
  • Trailhead: Little Si

Trail Description

For a quick afternoon jaunt to get outside and move, Little Si was one of my go-to easy-ish Seattle day hikes. This short hike is a short drive (if traffic is reasonable…) outside of Seattle and it climbs through classic PNW forests with views of Mount Si and the North Bend area.

Little Si sits right next to the taller Mount Si, which was made famous by the TV show Twin Peaks. If you’re looking for a longer hike, Mount Si is also a great option, although I find it to be a bit more strenuous than Little Si. Many Seattleites use these two uphill trails as training hikes or runs for larger PNW objectives. 

The Little Si trail winds its way through lush forest with options to break off and add on mileage or join up with the longer Mount Si trail. To head to the summit of Little Si, continue until you reach the steep uphill section that leads you to views over the valley.

On clear days, you can see Mount Washington and the summit of neighboring Mount Si. If you complete the Little Si hike and are ready for a challenge, try nearby I90 hiking staples like Mailbox Peak or Rattlesnake Ledge.

Note: Be aware that this parking lot does fill up quickly as this is a popular hike. Make sure to have a Washington Discover Pass for parking. 

4. Lighthouse Point and Lottie Loop Trail

Trail Basics

  • Distance: 2.4 miles
  • Type: Loop
  • Elevation Gain: 341 feet
  • Time: 1-2 hours
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Trailhead: Bowman Bay Boat Launch

Trail Description

Although I love the Cascade Mountains, you can’t say you’ve spent time in the PNW without also spending time by the ocean. Deception Pass State Park is located north of Seattle near the small seaside town of Anacortes and is a great place to get a feel for Washington’s beautiful coastline.

The Lighthouse Point and Lottie Loop Trail is one of my favorites in the park. It packs in a lot of great views for not that much effort. The route above includes two separate loops, both beginning at the parking lot for Bowman Bay. I also like to head north towards Rosario Beach if I still want to hike more.

The trail follows the bay as it heads to Lighthouse Point, where the expansive views of the iconic Deception Pass bridge and Whidbey Island never get old no matter how many times I visit.

After taking in the views, head back to the trail and either back to the parking lot or add on the small loop around Lottie Point. There are many beaches along the route, which make for good spots to stop and eat lunch or hang out. 

Note: Be aware that this parking lot does fill up quickly as this is a popular hike. Make sure to have a Washington Discover Pass for parking. 

5. Wallace Falls

Trail Basics

  • Distance: 5 miles
  • Type: Out-and-back
  • Elevation Gain: 1,482 feet
  • Time: 2-4 hours
  • Difficulty: Moderate
  • Trailhead: Woody Trail

Trail Description

Wallace Falls via Woody Trail is the epitome of a Pacific Northwest adventure. I love this hike because it’s filled with lush greenness, waterfalls, ferns, towering hemlocks and cedars, and loamy dirt.

I found the trail to the first waterfall pretty easy and accessible for most hikers. Most of the elevation gain happens in between the Middle and Upper Falls – but I promise, the views are worth it!

I think the Middle Falls overlook has the best views out of the three falls with a birds-eye look of the cascade and a panorama vista of the valley.

I also love that there are lots of nooks and benches by the river, which provide great places to take a break or eat lunch on the way up or back down. 

Note: Parking in Wallace Falls State Park requires a Washington Discover Pass

Cascading Wallace Falls in Wallace Falls State Park outside of Seattle
The hike to Wallace Falls is stunning with lush green forest, cascading falls, and a Pacific Northwest feel

6. Heather Lake 

Trail Basics

  • Distance: 5 miles
  • Type: Out-and-back
  • Elevation Gain: 1,034 feet
  • Time: 2.5-4 hours
  • Difficulty: Easy/moderate
  • Trailhead: Heather Lake

Trail Description

If you’re new to the Pacific Northwest, the hike to Heather Lake is an excellent intro to alpine lake hiking near Seattle. It’s one of the first trails I recommend to friends visiting the area because you get a lot of bang for your buck. The short mileage doesn’t include too much elevation gain, but the views are still stellar.

Located on the north side of Mount Pilchuck, the trail takes you through forests and across marshes and then winds up several switchbacks. Some of the switchbacks have eroded, revealing roots and rocks, making walking a bit challenging, but I didn’t find it to be overly difficult. If it has been recently raining (as it often is in the PNW…), this area may be slick and little waterfalls might run down the trail.

At the top of the switchbacks, the trail evens out, and you will reach a fork that leads you in a loop around the beautiful lake. 

Note: The Forest Service requires a NW Forest Pass for parking at the Heather Lake Trailhead.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can I hike in Seattle year-round?

Typically, yes. Since Seattle sits on the Pacific Ocean, winter temperatures tend to be pretty moderate. But that being said, Seattle is known for WET winters, so make sure you have a good rain jacket and rain pants.

Hikes that are more inland or around Mt. Rainier will get snow in the winter, but many of them are still hikeable (I personally love snowy winter hikes in the PNW – it’s so beautiful!). Check out our tips on winter hiking tips if you plan on getting out in the snow and be aware of avalanche risks.

Summer, spring, and fall are all great times of the year to hike in Seattle.

How can I check the conditions of the trails?

The Washington Trail Association website is a great resource for checking the conditions of specific trails. Use the Hike Finder Map to search for your trail and read recent hike reports.

Are Seattle hikes dog-friendly?

It depends on the trail, but in general most hikes around Seattle are dog-friendly if they are kept on a leash. However, the hikes inside the National Parks that are a bit further from Seattle are not dog-friendly.

What are your favorite Seattle day hikes? What is on your Seattle hiking bucket list? Leave a comment below!

Discover the best hikes near Seattle from waterfalls to forests and mountain summits with this hiking guide - all within 2 hours of the city!

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